If you are reading this article you are probably a digital native. This term is used to refer to those people who were born since information and communication technologies (ICT) became part of our daily life. The ‘others’ are the so-called digital immigrants, that is, those who were born when this technology was not available but have learned to use it as it emerged in their later years, just as they might have learned to read or to drive.
Since its beginning, when digital natives took the baton in the development of ICT, the developers tried to make it more human, more intuitive, and easier to use, in such a way as to permit people to interact with it in a more natural way. This is how voice assistants were born.
Whereas internet search engines provide a series of links as answers to questions or queries, voice assistants respond to a request. You can say: “Wake me up tomorrow at nine” and the alarm is set at the desired time. You can also ask them questions informally. For example, to the question “How are things in the Italian Serie A?” they respond with the standings, or if you say “What’s the news?”, they might turn on the radio.
We can make a huge number of very different requests. With each update, the existing answers are improved and new ones are added. Nonetheless, the most asked question to voice assistants dates back even further, even before these assistants came into existence: “Do you love me?”
Obviously, this question is outside the sphere of technology, and certainly most of the people who formulated it were just joking or making fun. Yet, the curious fact that this type of question is the most repeated in the world, somehow speaks of its universality: it shows the need to feel loved and it expresses a desire for life, something that technology may not be able to replace or respond sufficiently to.
Undoubtedly, ICTs are a precious help when we need to use them. They offer many possibilities for leisure time, and they facilitate our work in such a way that they have become indispensable in many cases. They may carry out a series of tasks in a more creative way, but they do not bear fruit by themselves.
Asking “Do you love me?” is part and parcel of our search for a Love that satisfies us. Let us hope that we have the faith and the insight that allows us to have such useful and surprising technology to make this kind of love a bit more recognizable.
Originally published in Spanish on PastoralSJ